Understanding the impact of substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders

Understanding the impact of substance abuse and co-ocurring mental health disorders

A substance use disorder often known as a SUD is a mental health disorder that impacts an individual’s body, brain, and behaviour.

SUDs frequently cause people to experience an inability to control their use of substances, whether legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.

Drug abuse

Drug abuse

People that abuse drugs or alcohol often experience a range of symptoms from mild through to moderate and severe, with substance addiction being the most prevalent and most stringent form of substance misuse disorder.

Substance misuse disorders

Studies have shown that around half of people with substance use disorders have also gotten diagnosed or experience other co-occurring conditions such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia and other personality disorders

Other mental illnesses

Researchers have explained that while substance abuse disorders can co-occur with other mental illnesses, it doesn’t always mean that one mental health disorder causes the other.

Common risk factors

Several risk factors explain why drug or alcohol addiction may co-occur together with other psychiatric disorders. These involve:

  • Environmental factors: Studies show that substance use disorders and other mental illnesses can run in families. All this suggests that genetic makeup could be a risk factor for substance addiction. Conversely, other factors such as trauma and stress can lead to genetic changes that get passed down through generations and may cause the creation of a SUD and other mental disorders.
  • SUDs often lead to increased risk of other co-occurring mental illnesses: Substance misuse disorders often lead to profound changes in brain chemistry, structure, and function, making individuals more prone to severe mental illness.
  • Mental health conditions can lead to the development of alcohol abuse and drug abuse: Research suggests the prevalence of substance misuse disorders and mental illness, particularly for those suffering from depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where many people take up drug use as a way to self-medicate. Although some drugs may temporarily alleviate some of the distress associated with mood disorders, they often lead to addiction and medical illnesses.

Substance abuse and mental health

As mentioned, trauma is often at the heart of addiction and substance use disorders, and people often mask trauma symptoms to manage the stress associated with difficult life circumstances.

Negative consequences

Often, when people ignore their trauma, it can worsen their symptoms. As a result, people usually begin to self-harm through self-destructive behaviours such as substance addiction, prescription drugs, or other drug addictions.

Mental health disorders

Mental illness co-occur often with addictive disorders; however, one doesn’t negate the other, and both co-occurring conditions need to be treated collaboratively at appropriate treatment centers.

Symptoms of substance misuse disorder

There are several symptoms associated with substance abuse and substance use disorders which involve:

  • Having intense urges for the drug to block out any other thoughts and emotions
  • Feeling as though you have to use the drug all the time or even every day.
  • Ensuring that you always have a steady supply of the drug
  • Spending money on drugs even though you can’t afford to
  • Needing more of the drug to get the same effect or ”high” as when you first started
  • Neglecting work and social responsibilities or cutting back on social activities to take drugs
  • Stealing or lying to friends and family to obtain the drug.
  • Spending a great deal of time getting the drug, taking the medication, and recovering from drug use
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug

Spotting the signs of a substance use disorder

There are plenty of signs to look out for if you suspect that someone you love has a mental disorder such as drug abuse. They include:

  • Neglected appearance – this involves a lack of interest in physical appearances such as clothing and grooming.
  • Problems at work or school – all this may include frequently missing work or school, a sudden lack of motivation or interest in work or school projects, or a drop in performance or grades.
  • Physical health problems – this often involves a lack of motivation and energy, changes in weight, and red eyes.
  • Changes in behavior – all this may involve banning people from going in drawers, pockets, or entering the person’s room and being secretive about their whereabouts and monumental changes in behavior towards friends and family.

Mental health issues

Mental health issues

Substance use disorders can also cause mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. In addition, the chemicals found in some drugs often impact the brain structure resulting in a mental health issue or psychiatric disease that may not have existed previously.

Mental health symptoms

Some of the symptoms of poor mental health are often diverse, and depending on the mental health disorder; people can experience all kinds of feelings and emotions. Some of the symptoms of a mental disorder include:

  • Confused thinking or an inability to concentrate
  • Excessive worries or fears and extreme feelings of guilt
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Feeling sad or down.
  • Constantly feeling tired or low in energy or experiencing insomnia.
  • Extreme changes in mood (from feeling high to low)
  • Finding it hard to cope with daily stress or problems
  • Changes to your sex drive
  • Excessive hostility, anger, or violence
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicidal thinking
  • Issues with drug abuse and alcohol

Treating substance abuse and co-occurring disorders

Substance abuse treatment often involves an integrated treatment plan where both substance use disorder and a co-occurring disorder get treated simultaneously.

Integrated treatment

Some behavioural therapies are incredibly beneficial to combat substance abuse issues while targeting underlying mental health issues.

Occurring disorders

When treating individuals with a co-occurring disorder such as substance use disorders, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, all aspects of a person’s health history are factored in.

Dual diagnosis

People with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues often benefit from a dual diagnostic approach when diagnosed with substance abuse and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

An interaction between the two conditions often makes rehabilitation a lot more complex, and so a person presenting with a dual diagnosis must receive adequate dual diagnosis treatment.

Treatment programs

A treatment program often takes place at treatment facilities where specialists get trained to treat substance use disorders and mental health issues.

Managing patients with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a mental health condition requires all parties to be involved, such as the patient, family, and health care provider. Successful treatment and recovery involve significant factors such as:

  • Specialists in mental health and substance addiction working together to make sure all your mental health and substance abuse needs get met
  • Psychotherapy often plays a crucial role in integrated treatment for addiction, which usually involves Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Prescription medication may also be required.
  • Therapy that cultivates the client making their own choices is usually the widely used and most effective.
  • All parties must get involved during the treatment process, such as household members, family, friends, spouses, and close relatives, regardless of whether they are receiving treatment or taking part in family meetings.

Psychiatric practice in addiction and mental health recovery involves several tried and tested processes that cultivate long-lasting recovery for those with substance abuse issues.

Those who have received a dual diagnosis must seek treatment as soon as possible to help with their substance abuse and mental health disorder.

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